Sunoco's move to install LED signs will test Lower Merion's zoning code

Tonight, the Zoning Hearing Board of Lower Merion Township will consider Sunoco, Inc.'s proposal to install new signs.

Sunoco has requested five variances to the zoning code in order to install LED digital gas signs in place of the company’s current signs, which require workers to manually change the prices. According to the township’s zoning code, signs that are “animated, moved, flashed or rotated, including electronically controlled copy changes” are prohibited.

The LED Sunoco sign on the Philadelphia side of Conshohocken State Road shows what the Sunoco in Lower Merion Township could look like if the company's variance is approved.

Sunoco argues that the LED signs would be a form of “relettering” under a different section of the code, and the signs would represent modernization, which is allowed in the code for nonconforming uses.

But the issue is thorny. Bryn Mawr Civic Association President Hank Wilson said when Sunoco met with the civic association the conversation was “very cordial.”

However, Wilson said BMCA does maintain a stance on the matter.

“Our position is that we want them to conform to the new Bryn Mawr Village District zoning code,” Wilson said, “and I’ll make that known at the meeting tonight.”

Two of the five Sunoco locations are in the Bryn Mawr Village District at 775 and 1250 Lancaster Avenue. Under the BMV 3 code where the gas stations are, Sunoco would have to reduce the size of the signs as well as ensure they are internally lit.

Diagonally across from the Sunoco at 1 E. City Ave. in Bala Cynwyd, a Philadelphia-located LED sign stands as an example of what Sunoco would duplicate if the township were to approve the variance.

An additional location in Bala Cynwyd at 101 Belmont Ave. and a Sunoco at 301 W. Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore would also be affected by an exception to the zoning code. Sunoco has not met with the North Ardmore Civic Association, former president Chris Helle said.

We’ll be at the hearing tonight, but share with us your thoughts below in the comments and feel free to ask questions while the meeting goes on through Twitter @NeighborsML.